As a woman, there’s not a cocktail on this Earth that I would feel any kind of shame for ordering.
Blowjob shot? Hit me, I’m ready. Chocolate Martini? Fuck yes, I am literally a cow. A cran-mango iced bubbletini with dragonfruit zest, a cake frosting rim, and edible glitter? Be still my heart! My sugar-coated, ribbon-wrapped, pretty pretty princess heart. No, I would bet you that I could sidle up to any given bartop, right now, and assertively order the most truly absurd, most girly drink ever made—like, literally a mani-pedi in a glass—and not a soul in the Western world would look at me askance for doing it, even though my primary language is Vulgarity and my fashion sense and natural mien fall pretty firmly somewhere on the drab and unflattering spectrum between “homeless” and “man.”
I’m not saying that it’s right. It isn’t. I don’t like girly drinks; given the choice between a typical fruity “-tini” of some kind and, say, a baggie of unlabelled pills someone found in the parking lot, I’ll roll the dice on the pharmaceuticals every time, and not necessarily for the reasons that you’d think. See, the entire category of girly drinks, amorphous and ill-defined as it is, is dominated by only a couple of broad flavor profiles—sweet, fruit—and can be easily maligned, rightly or not, as a type of beverage with intolerably low alcohol content—none of which are attributes I happen to prefer as a matter of my own taste. Under this paradigm, concordantly, my natural love for strong bourbon and malt liquor tends to get me more credit than I really deserve, which is also unfair. Bourbon is so delicious, I almost can’t believe it’s legal—and the implicit assumption one gets sometimes that it is a drink of stereotypically manly caliber offends me. Everyone should drink bourbon. Amen.
My point is that this old idea that there is such a thing in the world as a “girly drink” (as opposed to, oh, a “shitty drink”) and that a person’s alcohol preferences necessarily fall under the domain of regressive gender politics is self-imposed, crudely-policed, and stupid. We’re all on the same team trying to get drunk, here; why do we have to waste time making fun of each other? Fellas, are you really going to bash a man for ordering a vodka cranberry? Or a goddamn Long Island Iced Tea? This really happens. People do this.
That is not right, that is not fair, that is racist. As many of you know, my philosophy on the consumption of intoxicating substances has always been rigorously pragmatic—if it gets you there, do it. If it gets you halfway there, do it twice—and so on. There are some people who don’t share these principles, due either to prejudice or fear. I’ve said it before that when it comes to alcohol, fear of the unknown is the enemy—but so is the fear of being made fun of.
But first, a pause. Allow me to set the table. We are here, gentlemen, to discuss a type of mixed drink known as the spritzer—particularly in this instance, a red wine spritzer, simply because that’s what I happen to be sipping on as I write this for you, from the privacy of the bed of my pickup truck. (I include this detail for a reason—sunshine is, I’ve found, a perfectly complementary, nearly essential garnish for this drink.)
I’m already finding it hard to restrain myself from singing the praises of the spritzer for a thousand words, so before that happens, let’s briefly discuss how you would go about making a simple one. It’s easy, so pay attention—blink and you’ll miss it.
- Get a highball glass with ice. Lots of ice.
- Fill with red wine. Oh yes. A generous pour. It feels so wrong. (I’m really into Tempranillo lately, but for the purposes of this demonstration, let’s just go with my realistic, budget-conscious baseline: Franzia Chillable Red.)
- Top with cold soda water, say, two or three fingers. And it is important that the soda is cold; lukewarm soda goes flat more quickly.
- Garnish with lime. Or like, blackberry—that sounds fun. It’s whatever. We’ll say lime for now.
Okay—you’re done. Stir. Now take a sip of that and tell me that it doesn’t just feel nice. The tarter edges of your chosen wine, tempered by the smack of citrus. The airy fizz, what meager bite there is to the vino made undetectable by those few measures of gentle dilution. It goes down like a damn sports drink—perfect for the poolside or the outside in general.
The only real problem with this drink, aesthetically, is the name. “Spritzer.” Who knows about you, but it makes me think of, like, a slick-haired maitre’d standing on a chair, pursing his lips, and secreting a generous glob of mucus onto the top of my head. Or it makes me think of acrid, overpriced perfume. It’s not appetizing. It’s a name that reeks of effete, snooty pretentiousness, and it stumbles poorly off the tongue. But as Shakespeare said, a rosé by any other name is still a fruity pinkish wine, and what is a spritzer if not a simple mix of wine and soda, with a little spot of fruit? Many a respectable mixed drink has been bred from such simple attributes, like variations on the gimlet, or a damn bourbon rickey. And look, admittedly, I’d probably have some initial trouble, if the situation were reversed, ordering drinks like these under the moniker of “vodka spritzer” or what have you. But I’d still do it. Drink your drink, dammit. Then go punch the guy who laughed at it.
Frankly, I don’t know why spritzers aren’t more popular. They’re light, they’re flexible, and they’re as easy to make as they are to throw down the hatch. You may still feel they’re embarrassing, but how much more embarrassing are they really than the scourge of Smirnoff Ice? The versatility alone? God almighty. I don’t want to risk getting too deep, here—all I’m really hoping to accomplish with this dispatch is that you’ll go out and try a red wine spritzer—but the variety of wines! The variety of fruits! The variety of soda waters in the world, for chrissakes! Shit, in Spain, they mix red rioja with Coca-Cola over ice, call it a calimocho, and it’s goddamn delicious. I bet you didn’t know that. I bet there’s a lot you didn’t know about spritzers.
Why would you deprive yourself of this? The ancient Greeks would love these drinks. In addition to, essentially, laying the foundation that all of Western culture would build upon for the next few thousand years, wine and water was their thing. They had utensils just for mixing the two and considered undiluted wine uncivilized, barbaric, and dangerous. Of course, I wouldn’t go that far. But I will suggest that we all get to work on excavating the spritzer from the place of shame we’ve buried it. You can’t argue that they wouldn’t serve a purpose. I dream of a world where Mike’s Hard Lemonade and other alcopops have gone extinct, rendered worthless and replaced by a newfound, worldwide passion for the power of vine and soda combined.
Every article in favor of the spritzer that I’ve read has always come off, from word one, as incredibly defensive. I want to call an end to that. The spritzer needs no defending—its merits are evident from the first sip, so I praise it.
Just try one. Experiment. Find your summer spritzer. You don’t have to tell anybody, not at first; just start simple and branch out. And quit making fun of people. No one likes an asshole—especially an asshole too craven to sip a spritzer for once.
Cheers from the back of the truck, my friends—I trust I’ll see you at the pool.